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How does fatigue impact commercial truck drivers?

There are various reasons for why truck accidents occur. At times, drivers of passenger vehicles are at fault, although the truck drivers, or their employers, may be responsible for others. The most common causes of truck accidents for which the truck driver is at fault include inadequate training, the encouragement of faster speeds and more hours of work, and the application of excessive schedule demands and expectations on drivers. Each of these issues introduces safety concerns that would otherwise not be present.

Commercial truck drivers that operate their vehicles while fatigued place themselves and others on the road at great risk of injury. When drivers are tired, they pay less attention to the road and their reaction time slows down. Such driving can lead to mistakes that cause severe injuries to others. The Department of Transportation has studied the effects of fatigue on truck drivers and sought to implement rules that prevent such fatigue as much as possible. One such method is an hours of service rule, which permits drivers to work a maximum of 70 hours per week, take a 30 minute break in their first eight hours of driving, and have a restart period allowing them to catch up on sleep before getting back out on the road.

Although most drivers and trucking companies don't approach violations of these rules, there are some that push the rules in the interests of profit and put others in danger. This rule was implemented to place limits on these companies, as it is difficult for drivers to assess their own level of fatigue. Fatigue tends to sneak up on them when it is too late and their ability to act and react quickly is compromised. Companies violating this rule had their drivers working a full extra shift each week compared to other companies in the same industry.

All drivers, passengers, and pedestrians should have a reasonable expectation that truck drivers are acting safely in the operation of their vehicles. If they are injured as a result of a failure to operate a truck safely, they may be entitled to compensation as a result.

Source: transportation.gov, "Why We Care About Truck Driver Fatigue," Anthony Foxx, accessed on Sept. 13, 2015

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